How much of a country can you count? The newly updated Understanding National Accounts from the OECD answers this question and gives a summary of how to calculate the accounts as well as the principles and data sources behind them.

©LucyNicholson/Reuters

This working paper argues that some of the technologies associated with crypto-currencies are very interesting and may one day become a serious disruptive technology for financial intermediaries—but that these technologies should be thought about separately from the crypto-currencies like Bitcoin that have some very dubious uses.

©Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Global economy faces slower future—

A slowdown in global economic growth and a continuing rise in income inequality are projected for the coming decades, according to a new OECD study, Policy Challenges for the Next 50 Years. Ageing populations and the gradual deceleration of growth in the large emerging economies will bring global rises in GDP down from an annual average 3.6% in 2010-20 to 2.4% in 2050-60. Innovation and investment in skills will be the predominant drivers of growth. Climate change is also a factor, and Policy Challenges for the Next 50 Years says unless CO2 emissions are reduced, climate change could curb global GDP by 1.5% by 2060 and by nearly 6% in South and Southeast Asia. Technical advances will raise demand for high-skilled workers. Without a change in policy, OECD countries would face a further large increase in earnings inequality by 2060, bringing them close to the level seen in the US today. Rising inequalities threaten growth, most notably by blocking economic opportunities. See http://oe.cd/Cn

©David Rooney

Reconciling work and family commitments is a challenge in every country, but particularly for Japanese men and women. Much more so than in most other OECD countries, men and women have to choose between babies and bosses: men choose bosses, women less so, but on the whole there are very few babies and there is too little female employment. These shortcomings are increasingly coming to the fore and will have to be addressed.

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The OECD does not see deflation taking hold in the euro area, but the risk has risen.

Angel Gurria, Secretary-General of the OECD

International investment treaties are in the spotlight as recent articles in the Financial Times and The Economist show. An ad hoc investment arbitration tribunal recently awarded $50 billion (€40 billion) to shareholders in Yukos. EU consultations on proposed investment provisions in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the United States generated a record 150,000 comments. There is intense public interest in treaty challenges to the regulation of tobacco marketing, nuclear power and health care.

©Reuters

Some 50 years ago, Japan entered into the period of post-recovery after the Second World War, while consolidating its path for economic growth and making a comeback on the international scene. Japan’s accession to the OECD was symbolic in that respect. Another symbol was the Tokyo Olympic Games, which triggered a transformation of Japan’s international image, thanks to improvements in its physical infrastructure, transportation systems and services. A new expressway network had been built across Tokyo, the new Shinkansen high-speed “bullet” train now relayed Tokyo and Osaka in four hours, and television began broadcasting in colour.

The recovery from the Great Recession has been slow and arduous, and has at times threatened to derail altogether.

Reinhard Cordes, Managing Partner, ONLYGLASS GMBH

A promising policy to increase employment and foster social inclusion is the promotion of business creation by the disadvantaged. The potential residing amidst disadvantaged groups such as women, seniors, youth, migrants, unemployed or people with disabilities is enormous. Several methods are available to make this potential a reality. 

The world’s first ATM cash machine opened in Vancouver in October 2013, offering Bitcoin conversion to and from Canadian dollars. As the global use of Bitcoin continues to increase, governments around the world have both greeted and shunned the anonymous digital crypto-currency. The US and Canada treat Bitcoin as a taxable and tradable commodity, akin to stocks and capital assets (though in June 2014 California removed a ban on using currencies other than the US dollar, which could boost confidence in such alternative payment methods). Meanwhile, China has forbidden Bitcoin outright, while France, Germany and Korea do not recognise its legitimacy.

Your report on Germany proposes raising capital gains taxes on residential real estate (except for owner-occupied housing) to promote equity of income distribution and government revenue (OECD EconomicSurveys: Germany, May 2014, see www.oecd. org/germany).

©Brendan McDermid/Reuters

When the worst crisis in over 50 years struck OECD countries in 2008, people rightly asked why they had not been warned. After all, the information world is awash with economists, global traders and other experts watching the markets, and international organisations such as the OECD and the IMF are tasked with what is known as economic surveillance. Yet, as the former OECD chief economist, Klaus Schmidt-Hebbel, wrote in the OECD Observer (No 269 October 2008), Lehman Brothers’ collapse came as a shock to economists and market participants as well. How did they all get it so wrong?

Japan may be on the cusp of a fresh wave of “cool entrepreneurship” that could turn the country’s creative industries into a new source of growth. 

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While today Japan is one of the world’s largest and most advanced economies, a member of the G7 and the most developed country in Asia, in 1964 the picture was quite different.

Haguiwara Toru and Thorkil Kristensen, Memorandum of Understanding to join the OECD, signature of the Convention, in the OECD Observer No 6, October 1963, page 3 ©OECD

OECD membership crowned Japan’s efforts to reintegrate into the international community after the Second World War, while helping to turn the organisation into a global, rather than European, player. But the country’s accession had to be managed with great care, reflecting tensions of the time. 

©David Rooney

After two decades of sluggishness, a recovery could be under way. This time, it could be sustained.

Small and medium-sized enterprises refers to firms of up to 250 workers each, but did you know that these so-called SMEs make up some 90% of employment in the OECD area? 

After a euphoric decade, reforms to consolidate recent gains and confront challenges ahead are needed. Are Latin America’s economic fortunes changing? Over the last decade, policymakers and the general public became used to good news from this lively continent. Latin America was abuzz with optimism, buoyed by strong growth and rising incomes.

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Optimism has proved to be another major victim of the economic crisis, according to How’s Life? Indeed, people’s long-term expectations about their subjective well-being fi ve years from now have deteriorated almost everywhere in the OECD area. And most of them don’t expect things to get much better. 

©David Rooney

The global campaign will continue in 2014 to improve international tax rules, many of which were first designed over a century ago, and to make them fit for the era of globalisation and new technologies. In 2013 policy attention was focused on the problem of profit shifting by global firms and its negative effects on tax bases, with the OECD issuing its widely publicised 15-point Action Plan on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) to leaders at the G20 summit in September. A key action area in the plan concerns crossborder tax hybrid schemes, with an OECD report due to address the problem in 2014. How do they work? 

Energy has always been a hot political issue, but recently the temperature has been cranked up another notch. Large, persistent differences in natural gas and electricity prices across regions, coupled with a sustained period of high oil prices–unparalleled in market history–have many governments on edge. 

©Rory Clarke

Imagine a house that keeps itself warm in the wintertime. Think of the savings in terms of fuel bills and unfriendly emissions. Such houses in fact exist. Called “passive houses”, the concept of these highly energy-efficient buildings took root in the 1990s, before slowly consolidating as a niche construction concept in the 2000s. Are passive houses now actively moving into the mainstream as sustainable buildings? 

Bargain hunting © John Kolesidis

The Greek economy has become good headline material for newspapers in recent years, but for all the wrong reasons. Having experienced a boom following its hosting of the 2004 Olympic Games, the party ended in spectacular fashion when Greece failed to meet its debt obligations in 2010 and came close to leaving the euro. 

Global activity and trade are projected to strengthen gradually in 2014-15, but the recovery is likely to remain modest, the latest OECD Economic Outlook reported in November. 

©Jackie Naegelen/Reuters

The car industry has taken a dent since the recession started to bite in 2008, but even before then, new patterns were emerging that would reshape the sector for a long time to come. 

When G20 regulators met in Pittsburgh in September 2009–it had taken them a full year to react to the collapse of Lehman Brothers–they set out an ambitious financial reform agenda. No stone would be left unturned, no shadow in the banking system unexposed. Action would cover all financial market segments and players, and lessons would be learned from the crisis to ensure that the 2008 debacle never happened again.

Could the recovery from the worst crisis in half a century finally take hold in 2014? There are several encouraging signs, not least in the US, where growth is expected to accelerate towards 3% in 2014. Activity is also picking up in Europe, Japan and China. Ireland has successfully exited the IMF/EU/ECB-supported programme.

©Ammar Awad

Tourism has shown remarkable staying power in recent years. Despite political instability, wars, natural disasters and a global financial crisis, the industry keeps getting up for another round. Japan is good example. After the 2011 earthquake and Fukushima nuclear accident, the number of visitors to the country plunged. But in 2013 more than 9 million tourists visited the country, a record high. 

©Francois Lenoir/REUTERS

Talks to free up more trade and investment between the European Union and the United States got under way early in 2013. A good agreement in 2014 would be a positive thing, and not just for the EU and the US. Here is why. 

Ireland leaves the three-year EU/IMF programme of assistance today Monday (16 December 2013). Our economy is growing, our finances have stabilised and unemployment is coming down. Our strategy is working in Ireland, and our people are getting back to work.

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